8 Years Later
"Open the gate!" came the shout of a wall guard.
From one of the two turrets of the Castle of Arinya, Feyre watched as the Tryn emissaries entered the courtyard below through the main gate. As the silk covered palkhi entered, carried by four men, Feyre pulled herself off the wide window sill she was stretched across and knelt down to rifle through her simple leather sack that lay on the floor. From it she grabbed out a spyglass a bit longer than her forearm, the different sized pieces of rounded glass at either end glinting, waiting to be held up to her eye. It was a scouts spyglass, meant for a horse rider to use at great distances, picked up from the a passage floor if anyone asked.
Grasping the spyglass in her left hand she shucked the leather sack to the ground and turned back to the window to lay across the sill again, far enough back that someone below might only see the glint of the spyglass above. Feyre leaned forward slightly and pressed her eye tight against the small end while directing the larger one with her opposite hand to catch a better look at the people five stories below.
Dressed in the fine silks of the their country, the Tryn stood gathered in the courtyard near the gate waiting for the King, Feyre's oldest brother Aaron, to arrive. The people of Tryn were known well for their peculiar appearances. Nearly every one of them was mud skinned with green eyes, and though there were very few exceptions to that Feyre hoped that He may have been one of them. A hope she had for every new person that entered the castle grounds.
Moving the end of the spyglass to get a better look at everyone's face, disappointment flooded her when none of them looked anything like He did, or she thought he did. For one, there were only four of the men and none of them were tall or lean enough. Most importantly was the fact that they all had midnight skin.
Feyre faintly heard the door at the top of the turret open, slowly enough that only the slight scraping against the floor gave away it's movement. The sound paused a second then resumed as the door was closed again.
She heard her second brother sigh behind her. "Well hell, at least I tried," he said. "Let me guess what you're up to. Looking for the perfect man?" When he received no reply he continued, "I don't understand why you do this every time someone comes to visit, where you just appear then leave after you've gotten a look at them. There has to be a reason other than man hunting, and I won't except the shit you told our dear older brother about 'furthering your knowledge of others.'" Feyre found it slightly amusing that what she was doing was indeed a form of a man hunt, or a search rather, just not in the same way the Gavin had meant it.
She became annoyed when he began to speak again, thinking that he had already finished doing so. "Don't think Aaron believes that either, he just doesn't really think it's an issue but when I tell him that you-"
Feyre turned around to grab Gavin's arm and tugged him so close that she could see every light and dark fleck in his blue-grey eyes. "Be quiet," she hissed before tugging him down onto the sill beside her. She passed him the spyglass which Gavin took with a small grin on his face, looking at her questioningly when he recognized it as his, and turned to look out at the courtyard below. Feyre felt no need to confirm it as his since it was like almost every other spyglass within castle walls.
She turned and kept her eyes on the emissaries. They were being led into the castle by the head of the guard, a silver haired man named Warren, so she didn't notice the other visible gate, which faced the north instead of the east, open until Gavin poked her arm. With the same finger he pointed to the opening gate and she turned just in time to see Aaron, who was supposed to have greeted the emissaries, lead the person who entered quickly out of sight.
"Wonder who that is?" questioned Gavin. In response Feyre tossed her head in the direction of the door outside.
"Let's find out."
They looked with small grins on their similar faces and sprinted down the stairs with their items grasped by their fingertips, not slowing down even when the reached the door. Slamming into it, they pushed into the bright and colorful courtyard, it's hedges and flowers set on fire by the setting sun. Feyre wasn't a person to smile for no reason other than plain joy very often, but running along with Gavin to spy on the their older brother brought such a smile to his face. It staying in place as they rushed through the maze-like castle halls to the hall beside library where a grate connected the two. Laying on the ground both Gavin and Feyre pressed their faces up to the carved iron grate.
The library, due to it's quiet atmosphere and the fact it was almost a completely secure place, save the grate that served as a vent, was the place where Aaron held his most private meetings with those he didn't trust enough to let into the completely secluded war room. He didn't completely trust anyone other than his siblings enough to trust his life to them, or his secrets. Even the siblings were trusted at length.
Aaron, who was partially visible through the grate, began to pace. Silence came from the library for awhile while the King's just kept pacing back and forth over a few feet, his billowing silk pants -- to show his status as king -- waving around. Gavin and Feyre couldn't see the other person in the room. As the silence stretched on Feyre knew Gavin would want to speak soon since he was never one to be comfortable in silence so she reached her arm around his shoulder and slapped her hand over his mouth. Right then a woman's voice sounded from inside the library.
"Can we speak now," questioned the voice, "or do we need to stand around another hour in silence?"
There was a pause before Aaron replied. "Yes, we can. I do not believe it is possible for my brother to stay silent that long. And my sister rarely speaks anyway so I'm not worried about her, even if that little mouse is listening."
"You're not very trusting in others, are you? Even your own family," said the woman in a harshly amused voice, her young voice accented by a slight gravelly timbre. Warren, the head of the castle guard, sounded similar to her not from his age but from chewing too many burning leaves over the years for pain.
Her voice also sounded slightly suspicious. Aaron seemed to pick up on it too. "My brother may be the head of our armies and best tactician in any given kingdom but he doesn't know when to be quiet and when he takes to... celebrations he doesn't remember the meaning of the word lie except with women."
"Makes me sound like some dryg drunkard," hissed Gavin directly into Feyre's ear, his voice barely discernible from his breathing. Feyre paid him no mind and continued to listen as to the King's conversation with a frown on her face that grew with every passing minute. Her brother Aaron was a generally cautious man, but for him to keep a meeting of any sort secret from not one but both of his siblings was something that she found alarming. He always said that secrets were the thing that took a careful man to the grave, but didn't stay with him there. So his secret meeting here must be something deeply important to involve no one else for so long.
Gavin shifted his shoulder against Feyre which brought her mind back to conversation going on in the library. She had missed some of the conversation already and listened hard to catch up.
"I don't know what involvement the young man has," the women was saying, "just that he is involved."
"Michelle, rumors coming from a boy-" began Aaron but the woman, Michelle, cut him off.
"Young man. He was a bit reedy, and yes still a boy when I saw him, but his overall appearance and attitude lead to him obviously being a young man, and he definitely is one now. Besides, his words should be taken seriously none the less." Michelle's voice was cutting and Aaron, who had been continuously pacing the entire time, stopped. To talk like that to anyone of their status, could be seen as a challenge or threat, even from someone who was lower class, although she hid it rather well, by not dragging out her words.
Aaron began moving again and he spoke in a tone that was both calm and sharp. A warning. "But why should he be taken seriously? I have no reason to trust this stranger and you don't even know his name..." Aaron trailed off at the end in what sounded like hesitation.
"No," agreed Michelle, "I don't know his name and I never said I trusted the man. I did only meet him once. Just know that those rumors weren't intentionally spread by him, it's just that he'd been asking around about Faerie blades."
"Well, what else then?" inquired Aaron.
"He looked like the Old King. You're not going to get anything more out of me without Prince Gavin and Princess Feyre having been told everything and present with us when we continue," stated Michelle in a hard voice that would leave anyone else without argument.
"You have absolutely no right to-"
"I hate you the most, your kingdom and family that is, but in the few generations of your rule Arinya has become a better Kingdom to be associated with," cut in Michelle. "I don't have to be doing this so you do as I say or I leave, end of story."
He let a frustrated sigh. "Okay then. I'll have a guard escort you out of here and to your room on the base floor."
With that, Aaron moved out of view. Feyre quickly slid onto her knees and up to her feet as Gavin did the same, almost in synchronization, and went quickly down the hall. When they turned around the first corner the reached Gavin stopped and turned around on his heel while Feyre continued on. "I will see you later, alright little mouse?" said Gavin in a quiet voice.
Feyre didn't reply as Gavin went to pretend he had just ambled to the library. She just kept walking.
A hard pounding on Feyre's locked and barred door woke her up early the next morning. She thought that the person could knock once and she wake easily enough but the person just kept pounding away. Tossing off her thickly stuffed quilt, she padded silently across the wooden floor and unbarred the door while simultaneously kicking out a wooden stub from beneath it. As soon as she was done the door began to open so quickly that she had to jump back to avoid being hit by the heavy slab of hardwood.
"Hell Feyre, it took you long enough to wake up," ranted Aaron as he strode into her room in his kingly manner. "Gavin told me of your spying stint yesterday when I spoke with him."
Feyre shrugged in his direction while walking back toward her bed. She knew Gavin would tell him about it, as he always did, so it concerned her little. She knelt down and pulled out one of the drawers that were attached to the bottom of her large bed and pulled out a dress to wear. "At least turn around," said Feyre nodding her head toward the door when Aaron just looked at her.
He turned his back toward her after shooting her a look. "So you're putting good use to Achys of yours, correct? Spying everywhere? When you said you wished to have spies trained to smoke out assassins and secrets 'best brought to light' I thought you had meant that someone else would train them, but apparently not."
Feyre had pulled on a grey cotton dress that fell to the floor in neat waves, thin shimmering stitches glinting slightly and red stitches along all edges of the fabric. She let out a small whistle to get her eldest brother's attention. Turning back around, he looked her over as though assessing her ability to dress herself. Aaron nodded in hesitant and surprised approval, as she didn't wear dresses often at all, even slip dresses like the one she had donned.
"The King thinks I look well. I feel honored," said Feyre with humor twinkling in her silvery-moss eyes and a wry smile on her lips. "And as you had requested so that I'd be more safe, but I had the Hunter train me more extensively than you had asked. All spies and the like should be trained by their commander for trust and equal ability, isn't that what you'd always said in your conversations with Gavin?"
Nodding yet again, Aaron continued to look at his sister for a long while before backing toward the door and resting his right hand on the handle. Feyre knew that he found her eyes disconcerting with their odd coloring, just as she found his general demeanor slightly intimidating. It wasn't that he was the King of Arinya, the Kingdom of many men, or the fact that he stood in a straight, superior manner. Nor was it the blade she knew was hidden away somewhere on his person. It was the fact that he was so mistrustful to the point where, although he was a well loved king, anyone who met him was aware he would not hesitate to kill potential "threats". There was a bit of an unhinged looked in his eyes from years of suspicion of those around him. It was there always there, even then.
He wasn't really mental at all, thought Feyre, at least to her knowledge, but even she wouldn't want to step around that fact. Cautiously she said, "So there is meeting later, correct? You rarely come and visit otherwise."
"I count on you to see me," he replied unapologetically in his kingly way, though his eyes softened slightly with affection toward his sister.
"I've spoken with Gavin already," he continued, "Find him to get filled in on what I know before high noon, understood?" Without waiting for a reply Aaron pulled on the door handle and quickly exited the room. Feyre nodded at his back as he walked quickly away, the door pulling itself shut behind him with a low thud.
Turning, she went to grab a small side bag that hung off of a leather chord on the corner of a small table by her bed. She turned to the window as she tied it around her waist and looked out at the sun rising over the east mountains off in the distance. In the glass she could vaguely see her reflection, deep brown hair and burnished skin of her face. She stood for only a minute before turning away, not wanting to waste the sunlight that was only around for a quarter of the day, never much more or less, no matter the time of the year.
Walking toward the door, she grabbed a pinch of dust from a little cloth bag that was nailed beside the door and dropped it behind her as she left. Going at a slow pace and trying to keep from make as little noise as possible, Feyre walked down the corridor from her room, following the twists she knew well enough to walk blindly through, toward the library. Only the occasional guard passed her in their patrols as she made her way. Some looked surprised to see her and she made an effort to remember their faces although that was definitely not her strong suit, but they all nodded with eye contact in respect of her as she passed. Eye contact was permitted in a show of equality between the royalty and guards, since their duties were one in the same, to protect. Any too shy to look the royalty in the eye, weren't deemed fit to be guards of the royal home, because avoiding eye contact meant that they could miss vital details put out by the royals.
"My lady!" exclaimed the guard holding post by the doors of the library, "I didn't hear you coming..." He trailed off at the end, as if realizing his admission made him appear incompetent in his duties. The man opened his mouth to explain, but when Feyre held up her hand her quickly shut it and bowed his head in shame.
"I was trying to see how silently I could go about the corridors, not test you," she said. As the man began to relax his shoulders in relief she continued, "But I would be more careful of letting others get so close to you without you noticing." Her tone implied an or else.
With a small smile to herself she walked past the guard, who appeared as though her were trying not panic, and into the stacks to find Gavin, only a fleeting thought of watching their training passing through her head. He was sitting in the corner of two shelves facing the grate that they had been looking through the previous night. A thick book was open on his lap and his nose was nearly touching it as he read the words printed inside, a history of the battles of the distant past, when men could supposedly use magic. He was obsessed with those histories, thought Feyre as she sat herself down beside him and looked over his shoulder at a pictured knife while she waited for him to finish.
It took nearly an hour before he spoke. "Aaron told me everything we hadn't already... heard," he said in a low voice he normally reserved for others, shocking Feyre a bit.
Gavin look at her from the corner of his eyes before he huffed out a sigh and closed the book along with his eyes, sticking it between himself and the shelf. His hands clenched into fists on his lap before he quickly released the left his open palms flat on his knees. The furrow that had been on Feyre's face before quickly reappeared at his display of agitation.
“Well,” huffed out Gavin finally, “let’s start with the woman, Michelle.” He opened one eye and looked at Feyre with it. “She is from Carhia, it’s capitol, and works as the smith to their king, as I am told her father did before her. The boy she told of came by her shop when she still lived near the border lands roughly six years ago with a blade he requested be cleaned. A replica Faerie blade. He apparently acted strangely when she inquired about it and said he was searching for the real blades.
“We both know they were only given to royalty or those eligible to be on the throne. There used to be fourteen, one for each king and another for his head of guard or first advisor to watch over in case the need arose for a new king.”
Feyre nodded. “Yes, and we also know that they are nothing more that faerie tales now.”
“Apparently the boy didn’t think so and neither, it seems, does Michelle. Odd if you ask me. Need two to take the throne though, that’s what’s not often mentioned. One that was passed down by royal blood and one given in trust by the holder of another,” stated Gavin.“So since there are no holders of them, it’s theoretically impossible for anyone to make royal claims.”
“Unless the council decided that fact was of no matter,” disagreed Feyre solemnly.
“That’s what Aaron said when I mentioned it. You to may not look that alike, but you are his sister alright… I don’t have anything more save a few minuscule and unimportant details that aren’t necessary to know.”
Feyre shot him a scathing look with harshly narrowed eyes and scooted closer to him until she was pressing him into the book case. “What details? I find everything important and I know you do too,” she spit out, not liking the fact he felt she didn’t need to know something, or that he didn’t want to tell her.
He looked at her warily then up toward the ceiling as if praying to their gods for his life, while she continued to glare at him. “Michelle told Aaron that the blade looked like more than a replica…” he began warily.
“A real one?” inquired Feyre, curiosity softening her tone slightly.
“Maybe,” said Gavin, “but something in her description bothered me when I heard it. Remember when you became so isolated after mother’s death?” He didn’t wait for her to reply, simply went on.
“One day, when you were in the garden, after a few months had passed, you were staring up at the wall muttering about ‘the two toned dagger’, over and over again. Michelle had told Aaron those exact words in her description of the blade. He mentioned it to me because I mentioned your description to him when I’d heard it. I only told him because, well, anything to find the bastard was helpful and you were not - are not - any use for that.”
Feyre had already frozen when he had started to tell her of hearing her in the gardens. “You think-” she cut herself off, “What was her exact description as relayed to you?”
“Aaron said her exact words were ‘a two toned dagger of silver and iron with a metal gilded hilt of wood, wrapped in leather,’” he said slowly like he was trying hard to recall it. “Being a metal smith made her description very detailed apparently. Hard to remember if I got that right. Also she said that the boy was perhaps sixteen at the time, but tall enough to be a man.”
“Young man indeed,” Feyre muttered dryly as she recalled Michelle insisting the boy be called such. She stood up slowly and paused when she was straightened before turning quickly toward Gavin. “Let’s see what else she knows.”
As Gavin got up and began to follow his rushing sister out the door he lightly grabbed her elbow to slow her down. "Right now?" he asked, "Why not later at supper? Since we eat with Aaron tonight she'll be there."
Feyre raised her eyebrow. "Really?"
"I forgot to mention it, didn't I?" he asked, blushing slightly.
With a small smile on her face she nodded at him but stayed silent. After walking for a little while longer in silence, her brother finally asked where they were going. She pursed her lips to keep from laughing. "It took you long enough to ask," she began, sounding amused, "We are going to the dining hall. Aaron said to be finished learning what you knew by high noon so I suppose that it means we have to meet with him for dinner in the gardens. I forgot to mention it, didn't I?"
Gavin's blush returned again at her question, but he said nothing. As they continued toward the gardens they passed the hall that would have taken them to the hearing chamber, a place that Feyre tried to avoid at all costs. Feyre thought that it was ironic that the path her brother carried her down after the assassination was the same one that might lead them to the killer, or at least clues as to where he might be. Looking to her left she caught her brother giving her a concerned look, probably from thinking the same thing. Neither voiced that thought though.
The ceilings became a little less grand, more simple, once they were away from the entrance that led visitors to the hearing chamber although they were still very tall. Arching windows appeared intermittently looking out the sides of the castle to catch the daylight while smaller ones were simply in doors they passed to create easy viewing purposes for the guards. They were in doors where trusted mathematicians and the such worked and were added more recently by Aaron, trying to keep secrecy to a minimum. Every little crack in the walls and chip in the floors reminded Feyre of the fact that this was her home and reinforced the want, the need, to find the boy who had defiled some of the memories it held.
By the time they reached the gardens Feyre had lost the lightness that talking with Gavin gave her, ready to learn what she could from Michelle. The sun wasn't quite at it's zenith yet when they walked into the middle of the garden, but Aaron was already sitting at the low table with Michelle directly across from him. Stepping onto the short stone platform the table sat on, Feyre took her seat to his left while Gavin, as war advisor and next oldest, sat to his right.
"You're early," stated Aaron not looking away from Michelle.
"Well, it is not like you really told me all that much," replied Gavin curtly, switching to his more formal tone that he used around Aaron and for his work with others. Feyre tended to just not talk, preferring to observe while her brothers wheedled information from people through both suspicious accusations and calm inquiries. They all seemed comfortable with their roles, at least to her.
Feyre noticed that Michelle seemed to have taken note of their positions too, how they would listen to her. She raised her chin slightly like she was trying to appear more confident. When Aaron nodded at her to begin talking she spoke calmly.
"As I have already told you, I met the boy six years ago," stated Michelle, "but something happened more recently to make me come here."
"What was it?" inquired Aaron.
Michelle looked between the three of the them before resting her look on Aaron. "He came back about one year ago, the dagger tied at his waist and kept saying, 'It's time, I have to finish,' over and over while waiting for me to prepare some throwing knives. Tried to warn our King and Queen, but they didn't care if it's not a definite threat to them and especially if it's not a threat Carhia. So I paid a messenger to come here and tell you that I would be coming. If no one else would warn you of it then I guess it fell on me."
"I could have just included this information in the letter but I didn't feel it would be safe... also feel I didn't have to tell the other Kings, since that mightn't end well," she finished.
Aaron looked at Feyre, but she kept her gaze on Michelle. She took note of Michelle's weathered hands and youthful face that was only marred by lines around her mouth and eyes as the hunch of her shoulders. She appeared be about thirty years old, definitely older than Aaron. She was also old enough to know the dealings between kingdoms and how fragile they could be. It bothered Feyre. "You still didn't have to come here and tell us," she observed aloud to the surprise of her brothers
Michelle smiled like what Feyre said had made her proud. "I believe," she said, "that it would be smart for you to send a few of your men to find and bring him back here, so that he couldn't do whatever it is he's planning."
Feyre furrowed her eyebrows at the recommendation, not liking that Michelle looked at her when she spoke. Aaron appeared to have the same concern because he shared a look with Feyre that said as much, yet Gavin seemed to take no note of that. "How did he sound when he came to your shop?" he asked. Normally Aaron would hash out the questions with suspicion, but it seemed they had switched roles, shocking Feyre and Michelle.
"What?" asked Michelle sounding a little confused. Gavin said nothing and all three siblings waited for her reply. "He sounded... a little angry and upset, maybe excited too. I wasn't really paying attention to how he sounded so much as what he said. I mean, with what he said all those years ago I was only worried over the words..." She trailed off sounding unsure.
"And how did you know the hilt was wooden?" he asked.
"I am a metal smith. It didn't take that much examination to see the warping was consistent with wood, not silver or iron when I was cleaning it," she stated.
They all stared at her for a moment longer before Aaron voiced his questions. "How do you know he meant to come for us again? Why not your king?"
"Because the young man had the air of an assassin. Quiet spoken, a light step, and an innate nervousness. They aren't always nervous, but most of the newer ones seem to be. Taking in the fact your queen was assassinated only two years before, the last royal to be assassinated in decades, and the ornate blade it wasn't hard to put it together. The blade reflects the victim's status usually and it was one hell of a blade. The comment of 'finishing' brought me to you." Feyre nodded slowly, because she too knew that from her studies of assassins and their work.
"So you think it fitting that we bring the young man here," finished Aaron.
Michelle nodded at him. "It would be better than risking the threat, yes? Of letting other kingdoms have the chance of you being weak so they could try and take yours."
They watched her as she spoke and Aaron tilted his head in acknowledgment when she finished. "Then we shall take it into consideration. You may stay in the same quarters as last night for a few weeks longer before you make your journey back to Carhia," he said gesturing for a court guard to come to him. She thanked the siblings and went with the guard who led her back inside. The sibling stared at the door where she vanished for a minute before Gavin spoke.
"You think we should heed her advice, Feyre?" he questioned.
Not looking at him she replied, "Sadly, yes."